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Overdependence, coupled with loans and the cost of maintaining infrastructure, could leave Cambodia in a “debt trap” to China, an expert said Tuesday, as Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen prepares to attend a summit in Beijing on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s sweeping Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
China will hold its second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation from April 25-27 to outline the implementation of the BRI, which aims to strengthen infrastructure, trade, and investment links between the Asian superpower and 154 countries and international organizations.
Hun Sen will join nearly 40 other heads of state and 150 global representatives at the event, where he will speak on “boosting connectivity to explore new sources of growth,” according to a statement issued on Monday by Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Last week, China’s economic planning agency said that the total trade volume between China and BRI nations had exceeded U.S. $6 trillion from 2013 to 2018, and that China has spent U.S. $80 billion in direct foreign investment in these countries.
Critics of the BRI say that China is using investment to push its own political agenda, and that nations involved in the initiative see their sovereignty undermined if they fall into a “debt-trap” that leaves them beholden to Beijing because they are unable to meet regular payments on loans and default.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Carlyle A. Thayer, Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales, noted that Cambodia is already an estimated U.S. $3 billion in debt to China, and that it stands to take on further debt through the BRI.
“China provides most of overseas development assistance in the form of loans—these must be repaid,” Thayer said.
“In addition, although China finances major infrastructure projects that do contribute to Cambodia’s economic development, recurrent maintenance costs are left to the host country,” he added.
“Overdependence on China, coupled with loan repayments and maintenance costs, could result in Cambodia’s falling into the so-called debt trap … Chinese companies involved in providing infrastructure take possession of the infrastructure. This could hypothetically mean Chinese ownership of Cambodian ports and even airports.”
Under the BRI, China has pledged to invest in Cambodian agriculture, finance, special economic zone development, capacity building, culture and tourism, and environmental protection—though the lion’s share of funding will be set aside for infrastructure projects that include highways, bridges, ports, airports, and high-speed rail.
‘No realistic alternative’
Thayer noted that Cambodia was an early backer of the initiative and said Hun Sen’s attendance at this week’s forum will reaffirm his nation’s support for the BRI, while adding political clout for China’s hosting of the event.
“Beijing expects nothing less and will continue to reward Cambodia by extending diplomatic and political support, continued economic engagement [such as aid, trade and investment], and defense cooperation,” he said.
As Cambodia’s largest trade partner, its most important foreign investor, and a major supplier of development aid, Thayer said the country “has no realistic alternative to dependence on China,” while Beijing benefits from maintaining a regional client it can count on to support its core interests.
Cambodia drew condemnation from Western trade partners and aid donors after its Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November 2017, paving the way for Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to steamroll a general election in July last year widely seen as unfree and unfair.
China, which offered its full support of Hun Sen’s government following the election, typically offers funding without many of the prerequisites that the U.S. and EU place on donations, such as improvements to human rights and rule of law.
But Thayer said Cambodia’s government had “painted itself in a corner” by targeting its political opposition amid a wider crackdown that also included restrictions on NGOs and the independent media.
Since the election, the U.S. has announced visa bans on individuals seen as limiting democracy in the country, as part of a series of measures aimed at pressuring Cambodia to reverse course. The European Union, which was the second biggest trade partner of Cambodia in 2017, has said it will drop a preferential trade scheme for Cambodian exports based on the country’s election environment.
Hun Sen’s planned visit to Beijing comes as the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh warned through social media that Cambodia’s relations with China had done little to create jobs in the country, when compared to its partnerships with the U.S.
“China is Cambodia’s largest trade partner, but this relationship is heavily skewed in China’s favor,” the post to the embassy’s Facebook page said.
“About 87 percent of trade are Chinese imports, which do not support jobs or industry in the same way Cambodia’s trade relationship with the United States or EU does. This is just one more way Cambodia has shifted from a more balanced and diverse economic approach to one more dependent on China.”
China’s Embassy responded with a statement accusing the U.S. of “trying to stir things up again with the so-called trade deficit issue,” adding that bilateral relations are “not just about trade.”
The statement noted that China had built nearly 40 highways and bridges for Cambodia and helped to construct every hydropower station in the country, while questioning how the U.S. had contributed.
Cambodian Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith accused the U.S. of releasing “fake news,” as part of a bid to drive Cambodia and China apart.
“We want to build a good relationship with all countries, especially the U.S., but some individuals are trying to destroy this relationship because of their ignorance,” the minister wrote on social media.
Lack of transparency
On Tuesday, Koul Panha, director of local NGO Comfrel, told RFA that Chinese money is negatively impacting the people of Cambodia because of the way it is invested.
“Chinese investment in Cambodia lacks transparency and doesn’t help to promote democracy,” he said, adding that the loans have left Cambodia “under Chinese influence both economically and politically.”
Chinese investment has flowed into Cambodian real estate, agriculture and entertainment—particularly to the port city of Sihanoukville—but Cambodians regularly chafe at what they say are unscrupulous business practices and unbecoming behavior by Chinese residents, and worry that their country is increasingly bending to Beijing’s will.
Trade volume between Cambodia and China was valued at U.S. $5.8 billion in 2017, up 22 percent from U.S. $4.76 billion dollars a year earlier. China, Cambodia’s largest investor, has poured U.S. $12.6 billion into the Southeast Asian nation from 1994 to 2017. (RFA)
Every child who grew up in the 90s and the early 00s has certainly grown up around Tom and Jerry, the adorable, infamous cat-chases-mouse cartoon. The idea of naughtiness and playing mischief had the standards that this particular series set for children and defined how much wreckage was funny enough.
The show's creators, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera initially named their characters Jasper and Jinx. They did not plan for the fame that Tom and Jerry brought them when they released a movie by the name of "Puss Gets the Boot". This movie featured a certain cat and mouse who were a notorious pair, named Jasper and Jinx. When the movie became a hit, the names of the characters were changed and the show shot to fame.
Tom and Jerry became a go-to cartoon for children in the early 00s, and it was one of those shows with a firm foundation, that had already been in the running for decades. The original template had been planned nearly 80 years ago, and the makers did not change it. The music that was played in the many episodes, made a breakthrough in its own way. It is the most easily recognizable melody with utterly nostalgic associations.
Today, Tom and Jerry is still a household name in homes where children love cartoons Image credit: wikimedia commons
A set of supporting characters were defined for the show, to occasionally take the focus off the original pair. There was a large, black woman named Mammy Two Shoes and a bulldog who took Jerry's side. Mammy Two Shoes was discontinued because her character portrayed racist tendencies. A tall white woman replaced her, who was kinder and loved mice. Either of the women's faces was never revealed.
Today, Tom and Jerry is still a household name in homes where children love cartoons. There are a host of other shows besides this that aim to replicate the same aspects of the cartoon but do not come close at all. Despite the immense amount of violence in the show, it is a beloved pastime of parents and children alike.
Keywords: Tom and Jerry, Cartoon, Hanna and Barbera, Television
One of India's leading private museums, the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) Bengaluru, has released new primary research conducted by the ReReeti Foundation, on audience behaviour in India's cultural sector. While more than half of the respondents thought the arts and culture are essential, they rarely manage to make time for it. The majority (60.6 per cent), mostly young people under 30, felt Indian museums could present more engaging content, and most perceived culture as anthropological/ sociological. Of the diverse categories included, music emerged as the most popular cultural activity.
The report is based on a survey of 500 people, which included school and college students, professionals across sectors, homemakers and senior citizens. The first initiative of its kind in the cultural space, the report shares valuable insights into the behaviour and expectations of Indian audiences engaging with a broad range of cultural activities. As part of MAP's mission to foster meaningful connections between communities and the cultural sector globally, which includes its innovative digital programme Museums Without Borders, the report shares a wealth of insights that can help museums across the country understand their audiences better. As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities.As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities.
As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities. | Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Speaking on the recent report, Kamini Sawhney, Director, Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), said, "MAP is focused on changing the notion of a museum in India, by enabling more relevant and inclusive programming, both online and in our space in Bengaluru. The audience research commissioned by MAP, and conducted by the ReReeti Foundation, provides valuable, and actionable insights which we hope will help museums across the country better understand their consumer base, improve decision making and deepen social impact." As much as 62.3 per cent college students and 47.6 per cent professionals/homemakers perceive culture as anthropological and sociological. Music was the most popular cultural event likely to be attended, followed by heritage tours and plays/comedy shows for Indian audiences.
Over 70 per cent of college students visit museums with family and friends; working professionals, homemakers and senior citizens also predominantly visit with groups/ spouses (indicating a need to focus on increased group programming/facilitation). As much as 68 per cent of people were optimistic about going outdoors for activities and events in 2021. As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities.(IANS/MBI)
Keywords: Art, Culture, India, Museum, Music
What is the best way to save Goa from deforestation?
Drinking feni, may well be the answer, says the secretary of the Goa Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association Hansel Vaz, who on Thursday said, that sipping the state's unique alcoholic drink and making it popular would directly aid the greening of Goa's hills and other barren landscapes.
"To get more cashews, we need to plant more trees. I always say, by drinking feni you will save Goa, because we will be planting more cashew trees and we will have greener hills. The beauty of cashew is you do not need fertile land. You can grow it on a hill which can provide no nutrition. We will be able to grow more trees, if we can sell feni properly," Vaz said. Vaz's comments come at a time when the hillsides of the coastal state have witnessed significant deforestation for real estate development and for infrastructure projects. Feni is manufactured by fermenting and double distilling juice from the cashew apple.
Best way to keep Goa green is to grab yourself a glass of feni. | IANS
Addressing a press conference in Panaji, Vaz also said that the promotion of feni was also in sync with the Prime Minister's vision for India to go "vocal for local". "There is no conglomerate, multinational company owning the drink. So every time we sell feni, it is a direct cash injection into Goa. If you sell a feni cocktail in Calangute (a popular beach village), it makes a direct impact in Valpoi and Bicholim, because this money is going down there," the Association official said at a press conference in Panaji.
The Association held the media briefing to announce a road map ahead for the feni industry, especially vis a vis streamlining aspects related to production, standardisation and marketing of the brew to make it popular in other Indian states and abroad.
The efforts to streamline the state "heritage drink" comes a month after the Goa government notified a formal policy, 'Goa Feni Policy 2021', which covers 26 different varieties of feni distilled in the state. "There were many barriers related to feni, which the policy has now addressed," treasurer of the Association Tukaram Haldankar said. One such hurdle was the previous government classification, which described feni as "country liquor", which would deter tourists from purchasing the drink. The reclassification of feni as a state "heritage drink" has lent dignity to the brew which has been manufactured locally in Goa since the 16th century.
But there is more the government can do, along with the state's traditional distillers and manufacturers to promote feni, Haldankar said. | Photo by Ishvani Hans on Unsplash
But there is more the government can do, along with the state's traditional distillers and manufacturers to promote feni, Haldankar said. "We request the government to allow the sale of feni in duty free stores in airports and cruise liner terminals. The government should also support us through the department of Tourism, so that feni can be promoted in its programmes. iIf you go to Scotland, they promote Scotch. Goa should promote its feni to Goa," Haldankar said, adding that traditional distillers should also be given subsidies and other measures should be taken to standardise feni, which he said, "would require further subsidies and financial assistance from the government".
"It should be a standard product like scotch, champagne," Haldankar said. "Like Mexico's tequila, Russian vodka and Japan's sake, we need to export our feni across the country and the world and the local distillers should also benefit economically," president of the Association Gurudutt Bhakta also said. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: deforestation,cashew,distillers,association,government, goa, feni, India